Regents approve $4.9 million ’emergency repair’ to HVAC system at one of KU’s newest residence halls

photo by: Chris Conde

Madison A. and Lila M. Self Hall is pictured Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at 1620 Engel Road on the University of Kansas campus.

The University of Kansas will spend $4.9 million this summer to make an “emergency repair” to one of the newest facilities on its campus.

During its April meeting on Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents approved KU’s capital improvement request to repair the heating and cooling system, also known as an HVAC system, in Self Hall, a residence hall on Daisy Hill that opened in 2015.

Nelda Henning, director of facilities for the Regents, said that although the HVAC system was installed the same year that the building opened, it failed “almost immediately.” The university has been trying to find a workaround for the last four years but has finally reached a point at which it has no other option but to replace the system, Henning said.

Henning characterized the job as an “emergency repair” and said that it must be done this summer if KU wants to use the hall for student housing in the 2019-2020 school year.

Regent Shane Bangerter, who is an attorney, said he was concerned that by paying the bill itself, KU would be letting whoever was at fault for the HVAC failure evade responsibility.

“Obviously something went badly wrong,” Bangerter said. “I’m guessing somebody else ought to be paying this bill other than KU.”

Henning said the university is pursuing legal action against the company it believes is responsible, but that it needs some way of paying for the project immediately. The construction will be funded using KU’s Student Housing funds, according to Regents documents.

Henning did not mention the name of the company, and KU officials did not immediately respond to a Journal-World request for the name of the company.

Regent Mark Hutton, who is the founder of Hutton Construction Corporation in Wichita, said that the issue is complicated, but that the HVAC system was “a bad product” and it may also have been installed incorrectly.

“It’s a mess,” Hutton said. “I think (KU) is on the right course on how they have to move forward. It’s really easy to second-guess looking back, but at the heart of this is a failure of a product.”

Henning said a date is set for the university to meet with the HVAC company, but she did not specify when that would be.

“Everybody wants to try to meet in the middle and get this resolved,” Henning said.

The project will begin immediately after KU’s commencement in May and is expected to be completed in early August.

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